By Barbara Starr
Even as furloughed civilian Defense Department workers streamed out of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began working half a world away to get all 400,000 furloughed personnel globally back to work.
“Hagel is looking to get as many people back to work as soon as he can,” a senior defense official told CNN on Tuesday.
Hagel, who is traveling in Asia, hinted to reporters about what exactly he has in mind and it centers around a law quickly passed on Monday to keep troops and some essential civilian workers paid.
By Chris Lawrence, Jill Dougherty and Tom Cohen
With a flurry of diplomatic signals and activity, U.S. officials sought Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a possible military attack on Syria in response to last week's suspected chemical weapons attack that Washington blames on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry both consulted allies and indicated potential imminent action by a coalition likely to include key NATO partners and regional powers.
Days after the United States moved warships armed with cruise missiles into the region, Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that forces were ready to carry out a strike if ordered. A senior Defense Department official told CNN that any strike could be completed "within several days."
"We are ready to go, like that," Hagel told the BBC reporter.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria Monday left little doubt the United States would deliver a punishing response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, calling the facts "undeniable" and warning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable.
Laying out a moral case for eventual military intervention, Kerry called Assad's attacks against civilians "a moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience of the world." What is happening on the ground in Syria, Kerry said, "is real and it is compelling" and demanded a response from the international community. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Indonesia Monday, said "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification."
The United States is examining a variety of potential legal justifications for any type of military action. While three United Nations Security Council resolutions have failed to pass because of Russian veto power, officials say some in the administration believe it may be worth it to make the effort. But with Moscow already promising to declare any military intervention illegal, the United States and its allies would likely have to act without a U.N. mandate. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty
Putting to rest doubts that it might be cancelled, the State Department announced Tuesday that senior United States and Russian officials will hold a meeting on Friday in Washington to discuss issues leading up to September’s G-20 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu, at the State Department.
Washington’s anger over Russia’s granting temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as well as disagreements between the two countries on other issues, including Syria, led the White House to question whether the meeting was worth holding.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the officials will discuss the New Start nuclear treaty, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program and efforts to end the conflict in Syria.
The White House is also reviewing whether President Barack Obama will still hold a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That meeting would be held around the G-20 in Moscow.
By Jennifer Liberto
The Defense Department is giving its employees a break by trimming furlough days.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that furloughs for workers would be cut to 6 days, from 11. Employees will take their last furloughs next week, instead of late September.
Hagel said he was able to win the reprieve by finding savings and cuts in other areas.
Ever since July 8, some 650,000 defense workers have been taking one unpaid day off each week. It has effectively cut employee pay about 20% for nearly three months. The savings from 11 furlough days was only about $1.8 billion, a sliver of the $40 billion that the Pentagon had to cut as part of the sequester, or forced federal spending cuts.
By Chris Lawrence
The size of the active-duty U.S. Army could fall to levels not seen since the 1950s if the Pentagon fully carries out voluntary and forced spending cuts totaling $100 billion annually over the next decade, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday.
Hagel outlined a series of worst-case scenarios - including potential pay and benefit reductions for active duty forces, civilian personnel and retirees - that would also impact the Navy, Marines and the Air Force if steps to ease the one-two austerity punch are not taken.
"This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world," Hagel said.
Hagel said "everything is on the table."
It was Hagel's most comprehensive assessment of the financial challenges facing the Pentagon through the early part of the next decade.
His comments came just as Congress prepares to head home for its August break after which lawmakers and the Obama administration will again face key fiscal decisions on spending and federal borrowing.
The Pentagon is facing cuts of roughly equal value - $500 billion - in two areas over the next decade.
The first covers mandated, government-wide austerity that took effect in March after the inability of Congress and the administration to reach a deficit-reduction deal. The Pentagon's share of those cuts is roughly half of the overall government total.
The military also is planning to slash spending voluntarily as it moves away from more than a decade of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and prepares to reorganize and become more nimble.
Under the analysis, Hagel said the Army could have nearly 200,000 fewer soldiers compared to its recent wartime high if the double-whammy of cuts hits full force.
The active-duty Army could shrink to as low as 380,000 active-duty soldiers by 2017, as Hagel outlined a choice between cutting the size of the military or keeping its technological edge.
The Army has not been that small since the 1950s.
Hagel also suggested the Pentagon may have to eliminate three Navy aircraft carrier strike groups, slash the size of the Marines and mothball up to five of the Air Force's combat air squadrons.
Hagel's report followed a review by Pentagon officials examining the short and long-term effects of budget cuts on military strategy.
The Pentagon will consider changing military health care for retirees to increase use of private sector insurance when available, and may change how the baseline housing allowance is calculated so individuals are asked to pay a little more.
The military may also reduce the overseas cost-of-living adjustments and limit military and civilian pay increases.
"Many will object to these ideas, and I want to be clear that we are not announcing any compensation changes today," Hagel said.
But Defense officials admit overall personnel costs have risen 40% above inflation since 2001. "The Department cannot afford to sustain this growth," Hagel said.
Congress will have to sign off on some of the cuts Hagel suggested.
For instance, the Pentagon previously tried to impose small increases in health care fees for its working-age retirees. But leaders on Capitol Hill pushed back.
Now the Pentagon is signaling it will be forced to push for bigger cuts, affecting both military and civilian personnel.
Hagel described the Pentagon's current compensation plan as unsustainable if the sequester and voluntary spending reductions are imposed full force.
"If left unchecked, pay and benefits will continue to eat into our readiness and modernization. That could result in a far less capable force that is well-compensated, but poorly trained and poorly equipped," he said.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the former enlisted man who earned his sergeant stripes as a grunt in the jungles of Vietnam, is cutting the budgets of the Pentagon's top brass by 20%.
And he's sharing the pain, cutting his own office budget by a like amount.
From CNN’s Nunu Japaridze
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed the finger at China Saturday when addressing cybersecurity threats, the latest in a series of rhetorical skirmishes between the United States and China on the issue.
Speaking to an audience of defense professionals at a regional security summit in Singapore, Hagel said the United States was concerned about “the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spent part of Memorial Day visiting Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery where service members killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. CNN’s Barbara Starr caught up with Hagel, a combat veteran who served in Vietnam, and asked him who he thinks about on Memorial Day.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday the Obama administration is rethinking its policy of opposing providing weapons to the Syrian rebels.
Hagel's acknowledgment - after weeks of the U.S. resisting arming the opposition, for fear the weapons could end up in the wrong hands - comes days after the White House sent a letter to two U.S. senators saying the intelligence community assessed "with varying degrees of confidence" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had used the chemical agent sarin on a "small scale."
President Obama, asked about Hagel's remarks, said he was only reiterating a position the administration has held for months. "We are continually evaluating the situation on the ground working with our international partners to find the best way to move a political transition that has Assad leaving, stabilizes the country, ends the killing and allows the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, " the president said during a press conference in Mexico.